Friday, October 24, 2008

Just in time for Halloween

We are late cutting hay because the hay tractors are all at the John Deere dealership. We also didn't spray this year, so the fields have a lot of tall weeds.

We had our first early-morning fall fog last week, and when the fog began to rise, it left dew all throughout the field. When I returned from morning carpool, there were THOUSANDS of small, shimmering, perfectly formed spider webs gleaming in the field.

I don't know that we will see anything like this next year, because like I said, the field is usually cut short by the time we have these heavy fogs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tree Cat

One of our barn cats has taken to sleeping in a cavity of one of the Live Oak trees. Perhaps we should have named her "Mr. Macavity" instead.

Winter Garden

After much procrastination, our winter garden is finally planted.

At the end of September, the stock market fell to a record low and hubby came home early from work with several flats. Nothing like a little recession to get you in the planting mood :)

We planted hybrid cauliflower, collards (couldn't find turnip greens,) spinach, carrots (seed,) beets (seed) which mom suggested to start with a little lime in the soil, broccoli, cabbage, and english peas (seed.)

By spring, I hope to start everything from heirloom seed.

By all means, send me any suggestions you may have for our garden!

First sprouts of English Peas:

First signs of the beets:

The garden:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chicks aren't so cute anymore!

The baby chicks that hatched during the summer are getting so big! After getting 7 chicks over the course of 30 days, we had to break the setting hen's broodiness because she was getting so skinny!

5 of the 7 have inherited the poofy crest of their father, "Puff-Daddy" (shown above.)

The 4 yellow and spotted baby chicks eventually turned black. The only difference is that they have lighter, mustardy-green eyes.

I think that at least 2 are roos, but we learned the last time that we should wait and see. With last year's chicks, some of the pullets we were convinced were roos turned out to be hens after all.

For those of you who aren't up to speed on chickens, the only way to tell their sex is to look inside their vent, which even Mike Rowe has declared a "Dirty Job." There are entire books written about the art of sexing chickens, but I think I'll stick to waiting patiently for a crow or two.

Hurricane GUSTav

Here is the email update that I sent to family and friends the moment our cable was restored:

Hi all,
Our electricity is finally back on, and our cable/internet was reconnected today (after 5 days without power.) Others aren't as fortunate...St. Francisville and Prairieville (our last home) could possibly be without power for a few more weeks. Many homes are flooded as well.
We lost a lot of shingles, but hubby was able to patch each area with extra shingles and wet tar. We have been ready for a new roof for quite some time but are waiting to find out the sex of this baby first. If it's a girl, we'll probably move forward with our plans for an addition (thus we'll redo the roof once it's time to roof the new room.) If it's a boy, he will easily share a room with DS.
We also lost quite a bit of siding, but that is next in line to be remodeled as well, so we're not upset. Most of the siding was ripped off of the carport, which we were planning to tear down anyway.
We lost 2 trees, but none were our centennials. One large limb fell on our power line that feeds the barn, so that will need to be replaced. Hubby has taped it and strung it up high to make do for now. We have the nicest couple from Georgia staying with us. They are members of the Insurance Company Catastrophe Team and have been assigned to help hubby with his customer claims. They are retired, except for when they work catastrophes (about 3 months out of the year.) They were unable to find an RV resort in the area that could either take their large RV or had power. So, we were quick to welcome them to stay with us. They arrived yesterday in their super-nice RV bus, which is now parked out by the barn and is being fed by the patched up power line. We are hoping it holds up!
We have just about gotten up the last of the limbs. The photos don't show how much clean-up was involved b/c you can't see all of the small sticks! We raked nearly every square inch of the yard that we keep mowed. That's about 4 acres! The burn pile has been squished by the bucket of the tractor, so it's really compacted in that photo!
We are thankful to have had the generator and the 2 window a/c units. Hubby hardwired the generator to the house, so everything except for the main a/c, dishwasher, and washing machine worked. On day 3, hubby drove to McComb, MS to find more gas for the generator. He is already looking at diesel generators so that we can store fuel more easily. I felt terrible when I realized that we spent nearly $400to keep cool. I don't think of myself as a wuss! I think I could survive without air if our house was designed for it! We removed the pre-a/c circulation fan from the house when we first began remodeling. Perhaps we should have kept that monster of a fan in there!
Compared to Haiti and other areas, the people of Louisiana have nothing to complain about. Children there haven't even eaten since the storm!
Anyway, here is the link for the photos...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cheap Cheep!

Our black australorp started setting a few weeks ago. We've gone out to the nestbox several evenings to candle the eggs with the kids.

After swimming this evening, we went to fetch the last of today's eggs and were greeted with a lovely chorus of cheeps.

Out of the 15 or so eggs, 3 have hatched so far. There are two solid black chicks, and one is yellow with gray/black spots.

We only have one polish crested rooster, and several of the hens have been sharing the same nest box. This nice mama hen has been looking after everybody's eggs! It's like we have our own little FLDS chicken commune.

The kids are overjoyed. The baby even squealed and couldn't stop pointing. This is the first time we've ever hatched our own chicks here at home (others were school projects or mailorder.)

They'll stay in a rubbermaid in the foyer until they start to poop a lot, their chirping gets annoying, and/or the "newness" rubs off. Then they'll go outside to the brooder box in the dairy barn.

All in all, another exciting summer day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Excellent Publication

This is a SARE "Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education" publication I ran across the other day. It's quite an interesting read. We aren't planning on selling beef, but it offers a lot of information regarding the slaughter of grass-fed cattle for personal consumption.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tomato Time

You may not recognize me...I think I'm turning into a bacon and tomato sandwich. I've had enough in the last week to feed a small village.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

School's Out for Summer

Plenty of time for horse-ridin' and hay jumpin'!

We baled our first cut of hay for the season. We had no choice but to do round ones because there was more winter trash than usual--no problem for cows.

We usually do square bales for horses, but the hay has to be extra dry and weed-free if it's to be fed to them safely (Johnsongrass is esp. dangerous.) Because of this, we usually fertilize and put out 2,4-D (organic nazis shudder now.) The combination really makes for beautiful, weed-free fields.

The only problem is that tractor diesel, fertilizer and most all chemical prices are through the roof right now. If we fertilize this year, I doubt we'll see a profit. A few of our customers would probably pay about $8 a bale, but most would resort to buying cheaper hay and take the risk of having weeds.

A lot of horse owners around here are complaining, and if they aren't complaining they are selling-- especially the ones who have multiple horses but don't own much pasture.

It will be interesting to see how the field does on its own this year. We've had a heckuva lot of rain, so maybe the Bahia will grow well and choke out some of the weeds. If not, I see more round bales in our future.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dewberry Cobbler

Summer is officially here when you can pick enough dewberries to make cobbler every Saturday night for dessert!

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Hen House

I've been meaning to post this pic of the horse stall that hubby converted into a hen house. The only thing left to do is make some bahama-style shutters that can be lowered on cold winter nights. Thankfully, that's a project that can wait for the fall!

Spring Bunnies

Hubby mowed near some high grass and exposed a small nest of baby rabbits. One was so petrified that it didn't run, so hubby scooped it up to show the kids. I hope its mother doesn't mind that it was returned smelling like a people house, but hey, if it was so slow that it allowed hubby to pick it up, then it probably wouldn't have survived the hawks very long anyway.

Strawberries for All

We had a great time gorging ourselves on fresh, local organic strawberries courtesy of a neighboring farm. The baby would holler every time she realized it was time for another! Even the chickens enjoyed their fresh carrot and strawberry tops.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Slimy Slugs

What do you do when it's 10 p.m. and the kids can't sleep because vacation time has thrown off their sleeping schedule?

You don a headlamp and head outside in search of SLUGS!

Two of them were nearly 6 inches long before they curled up.

Well Update

Here's an update on my post about the well.

I suppose you can tell from the photo that we've gotten it working again! Free water is so cool!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hawk Attack!!!

The neighbor called today. "One of your chickens is laying on its back with its legs up in the air. I don't think that's good."

I went outside to find all of the smart, RIRs, Barred Rocks, etc. hiding in the henhouse, and all but 2 of the dumb meat birds walking around saying "Hey, where'd everybody go?"

One chicken was barely pecked on its neck...a hole about the size of a raisin. It either hit just the right nerve (no blood) or it was scared and had a heart attack. The other wounded chicken was hiding in the corner, sliced from her neck to her wings like a zipper. There was blood everywhere and she was panting. We snapped her neck to put her out of her misery.

I scanned the chickenyard. Because of the clean slices, I doubted it was a dog, but I checked the fences just in case. I scanned the trees for signs of an avian predator, but I didn't see anything.

I phoned the neighbor to thank him. He informed me that his mother, upon arriving at his house moments before, announced "I saw the nicest hawk perched in your neighbor's pecan tree on the way in!" Well, I suppose we have an eye witness.

I've read that most Hawks are very territorial. I'm hoping that because this hawk was larger than the ones we normally see around here (he must have been big if he assumed he could take off with a 25lb. broiler!) that he is just passing through the area.

I'll keep the rest of the flock locked up for a week or so and we'll see if he gives up and moves on.

If he doesn't, I can only hope that we don't have to send the kids out to play with umbrellas like these people.

BTW: Don't even suggest deer netting. It's uglier than water barrels. I'd rather buy a billygoat bodyguard for protection.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Simply Whole Wheat

Here is a new recipe I tried last night. It's extremely easy and is a great way to utilize all of the honey in your pantry, as it doesn't call for any refined sugars. This bread is dense and holds together well for sandwiches and french toast.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Allow at least 4 hours for dough to rise (it's a 3 step process.) I put my dough bowl near the warm stove because the house was cold, and it took 4 hours.

3 cups warm water (110'F)
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
5 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2-4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted

*You could add sunflower seeds for some extra flavor.

In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups whole wheat flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
Bake at 350'F for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Shooting Myself in the Foot

We plan to install landscaping and plant a buffer of tree seedlings this year. Because of this, we are interested in getting the old well in working order again. We can't tell if it has been "plugged" or not. The head of the well seems to be capped with a metal fitting and an old rusted pipe.
When searching for licensed well drillers (to possibly aid in our efforts to install a new pump,) I actually found our well listed on our local government website! You can find anything online these days!
I emailed the contact person and requested that they check on the status of our well. They informed me that the well is still listed as active. I was so pleased with this discovery until I read the following:

Dear Citizen:
If the well is truly abandoned, you have two choices: 1) You may want to rehabilitate the well and put it back into service, if it is possible. To do this, contact a licensed water well driller to come examine the well. He will probably run a tag line down the well to verify that there are no obstructions in it, then suggest how to go about reinstalling the pump, etc. Or, 2) If you do not want the well any longer, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has statutory authority (R.S. 38:3901–3098.8) over the plugging of abandoned water wells in the state. By statute, you have 30 days in which to plug the abandoned water well. Please contact a licensed driller to have this done properly. Please note that since 1985, all water wells are required to be inspected when drilled and/or plugged; this is done by one of our inspectors at no cost to the homeowner. When the well is properly plugged, the well driller sends us a plugging form (you get a copy) to us and we change the status of your well Use in our data base from DOMESTIC to PLUGGED.

30 days to comply. How nice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yumm... dirt.

I can skip taking my vitamins tonight!

but Martha has it all...

I just finished reading some of the blogs I frequent in the evenings after the kids go to bed. It was on blogs such as these that I learned about chickens and I've now started to re-read up on vegetable gardening. Because I'm the daughter of an engineer, I think I'm cursed with said DNA and therefore must analyze every possible way of mulching, planting, and designing a garden before I actually put shovel to dirt. The sad thing is that we have been here over 2 years now and I still haven't planted anything but tomatoes.

Reading these blogs inspires me, but the couture in my country isn't quite ready to go crunchy. I've always been a fan of the country life, organics, homesteading, and living simply but I just can't shake the inner preppy self. I'd like to make water-collecting barrels, but I just think they'd look so darn tacky!

Heck, I drive an SUV, not a hybrid. I collect fine art, not recyclables. I wear pearls not birkenstocks. I admire those bloggers who post about their homemade bread. I'd love to make homemade bread every day if I didn't spend so much time ironing designer clothes and reading magazines (love the InRegister!) While others are ordering their catalogue seeds for spring, I'm drooling over all-wood cypress windows with antique levers and copper awnings as we prepare to remodel the house.

Sometimes it's the other way around though. I may not believe in co-sleeping, but I've spent more time breastfeeding than I spent in high school. I'm the only person I know who left their son intact. I don't homeschool, but I chose to stay home with my children when everyone else from LSU went on to Grad school and Medical school and their eventual careers. I'm the only girl in my group of friends who doesn't carry credit card debt and go to the mall at least once a week. My kids complain that they're the only ones who don't get Lunchables for lunch.

Before I leave to pick the kids up from carpool, I always change from my farm threads into something a little more presentable. I always think to myself, "It sure would be easier if I could just let myself leave the house like this!" Perhaps it's just a southern thing to feel like you have to put your lipstick on before crossing over your property line (or in the case of a neighborhood, before you step foot out of the front door.) Geez, in Mississippi we couldn't go to the mall without rolling our hair first!

This last year I've found that my three wardrobes have morphed into two. I used to categorize my clothing into:

1) Bum. Clothes for washing the car and painting.
2) Socializing. Clothes for going to lunch at Silver Spoon, Calvins, dinner at Superior, or even our local Wal-Mart.
3) Church. Clothes I wear to church, weddings, or funerals.

As of 2008, I now only have Bum clothes and Church clothes. I've found that my nice stuff just keeps getting ruined by baby spit-up, hot grease from the stove, or general mishaps from outdoors. Gaining a lotta few pounds didn't help this situation either.

I sometimes wonder if I'll ever wake up and suddenly realize I'm just a farm girl. Is it possible to let go of my love for monograms, textiles, and handbags? Could I possibly ever choose canning over Crane stationery?

I realize that there is such a thing as balance. I've been balancing a lot of things up until now...or, -er playing both sides. Example: I had some extra eggs today, so I donned my *best* bum clothes, put on makeup and diamonds and brought several to daughter's teachers before school let out. It took 5 minutes before the art teacher finally realized why I had eggs with me. I guess I just looked like the type who usually brings cupcakes from WalMart.

I'd love to maintain this balance. Martha Stewart does it...with the help of a staff of about 400. One great blogger said this "Only one thing can be presentable at a time. It's either my house or me." In the last 2 years, I do feel like I've let go of a lot of the preppiness and primping. I haven't been shopping for myself in ages, and this past fall the kids went to church several times without matching outfits :) I just wonder how much will have to be let go if I'm ever going to be able to dive into a garden or compost bin. These days of "Honey, can you go feed the's humid outside, and I just flat-ironed my hair" can't last forever--or can they?